Happppy Wednesdayyyy. We’re halfway there, and what better way to break up the week than with 30 more pictures of Bangkok? Like I said last week, we split our time into two two day increments with a three day trip to Phuket in the middle. You can read all about the first two days + some general tips here!
We got back to Bangkok on Saturday afternoon, checked into the Sheraton (good, but I preferred the Hilton, as the hotel was quite dated), and had dinner at the Banyan Tree Hotel that night. They have a restaurant called the Vertigo Grill that’s on the 62nd floor and the views are insane. There’s a bar up there too… the drinks were good and food could have been better, but getting a table (versus sitting in a crowded bar area) was well worth it for the experience.
We had an earlyish pickup the next morning for a tour of the city. Same guide as last time, so we were well-equipped with a cool car, iced water, and wet towels–yay!
The first stop was Chinatown, which was just a short ride from our hotel. We went to a flower market, farmer’s market, and sweets market (the latter of which I waited outside for, as there were tons of bees flying around).
Many large hotels and wedding venues purchase flowers from this market, as they come incredibly cheap and are great quality. The variety and availability were insane!
I thought it was fascinating how this woman was using a plastic water bottle to add water to the bags of buds…people there are truly resourceful compared to what we see a lot of the time in the US.
Stunning colors at the food market.
Oh, I also insisted on trying durian, this horribly smelling fruit native to southeast Asia. It tastes sort of like a banana, but in a weird (less appealing) way. Some people like it but to non-locals, it’s more of a novelty/something to try when you’re traveling. I didn’t think it smelled quite as bad as everyone made it out to be, but the stench really permeates anything…we had it in the back of the van we traveled in and could smell it through the entire car in minutes.
Our next stop was The grandPalace, which was just a short ride away.
Stating the obvious here, but the compound is truly fit for a king. I mean look at it! The king doesn’t currently reside here; it’s mostly used ceremonially and attracts thousands of tourists every day. On another note, I’ve also never seen so many selfie sticks in my life.
The intricate details at all the temples blew me away. How incredible is it that this work is handmade? This handiwork and attention to detail quickly became one of my favorite parts of the sites we visited on this trip.
Our next stop was Wat Pho, which is a very short drive from the Palace. It was far less crowded and while smaller in scale, was equally ornate.
Wat Pho is also home to the Reclining Buddha. This guy is massive. Look at the man in on the left side of this photo for scale.
After Wat Pho, we piled back into the car and headed to a waterfront area for lunch at a local restaurant. I obviously fell for these blue and white dishes and ended up hunting down similar bowls later that day!
After lunch, we piled into a boat (our own! that was one of the coolest parts about boat rides on this trip…each family often has a private one) and rode down the Chao Phraya River–the city’s main river– for about 45 minutes.
There were tons of beautiful (as well as run down) homes–similar to the rivers surrounding the floating market, most of these properties are passed down through generations.
Casually exchanging $ for bread to feed the catfish, who were eager beavers…
Much like the monkey’s, they’re used to boats of tourists coming by and tossing them bread.
After about 40 minutes, you could see Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn) in the distance.
Another tidbit about the these temples: the design is heavily influenced by the king in power when construction is underway. Many appreciated influences from other countries, which is why some–like Wat Arun–look more European than your average Thai design.
Again, there was blue + white everywhere (as evidenced here) * heart eye emoji *
Wat Arun was our last stop of the day, and we headed home after a quick stop at the famous MBK Mall on our way back to the hotel. I don’t have photos, but it was an interesting combination of commercial stores + individual sellers at kiosks…sort of a combination of a typical mall and street shopping.
After a huge breakfast buffet at the hotel, some downtime, and packing (our flight was at 2am that night), we took the Sheraton ferry to the main port and hopped onto the Peninsula ferry for tea time!
Something my mom and I were the most excited about on this trip tea at the Peninsula Hotel. There are only a handful of properties in the world, and many (if not all) serve afternoon tea in the lobby. The hotels are beautiful and are also great spots for people watching!
For food, we tried both the traditional and modern selections. We really preferred the former, as it had the tea snacks you’d expect (mini salmon + egg salad sandwiches, a macaron, a financier, etc.).
The modern spread looked sort of like this…it was interesting, but I wouldn’t order it again. Veggies just seemed odd!
We basically lounged around for a few hours, reflecting on what was a very last minute but equally successful family vacation (our first with just the three of us in about 8 years!). I insisted on making a final stop–another trip to Jim Thompson’s house, where we’d been on our first day in Bangkok–because their gift shop had a stunning pillow I couldn’t get out of my head. I’ll save that story for another day :)
We hung out at the hotel for a bit and before we knew it, it was 10pm and time to head to the airport! If you were curious, we flew Qatar Airways through Doha–my parents flew Dallas –> Doha and I flew DC –> Doha, and the three of us were on the same flight to and from Bangkok. That route actually flies an Airbus A380…by far the coolest plane I’ve ever been on! Not only is it double decker, but it has mood lighting, artwork (seriously, what airlines have artwork?), and significantly nicer bathrooms than any airplane I’ve been on.
So that concludes my epically long posts on Bangkok! Seriously, if you ever have the opportunity to visit, go. While it wasn’t my absolute favorite city (I also haven’t traveled in Asia besides Bombay), I’d highly recommend it if you can get out of the city and explore, or just for 1-2 days to see the temples. They’re truly unlike anything else in the world!
A recap of general tips from last week:
Where to stay: We stayed in both the Sukhumvit neighborhood and the Riverside neighborhood. Our first hotel (the Hilton Sukhumvit) was about three blocks from a Skytrain (BTS) station and a high-end mall with an amazing food court. The downside is that the area surrounding our hotel wasn’t that walkable, but that seemed pretty normal for many of the neighborhoods.
The second hotel (Sheraton Orchid by the river) had a beautiful view but was a little further away. There are quite a few hotels on the water, and I think most of them have a free ferry that will take you to the port with one of the main Skytrain stations.
Siam is also a popular place to stay, as there’s a decent amount to do nearby, including the famous MBK mall (and the area has tons of hotels). I found this guide to be pretty helpful in breaking down the neighborhoods before our trip–in my opinion, it’s pretty accurate!
What to eat: The biggest thing here is whether or not it’s okay to eat the street food. We were hearing mixed things, but ended up only sampling what our tour guide picked out for us since she advised against eating it in general but knew vendors who produced food in completely sanitary ways. If you do eat off the street, just be careful…I probably wouldn’t advise trying the fresh juices, no matter how appetizing they look. If anyone has more experience with this, I’d love to know!
How to get around: We took the Skytrain a few times and took a few cabs. Walking around was a bit tough where we were, and two of our four days in Bangkok were spent on planned out excursions with a tour guide. One thing to note when taking cabs: the cabbies will likely try to refuse to start the meter when you get in. If they do that, just say you need to be let out of the car because you only want a metered ride. They may grumble, but they’ll start it. They’d prefer to settle on a price (instead of go by the meter), but this will always end up costing you more. It can be hard to hide that you’re a tourist ;)
How to see the sites: I guess this goes hand in hand with “how to get around,” but I really think the best thing we did on this trip was have a private guide and driver for our main tourist activities. Bangkok is a huge city and as I’ve mentioned is really hot and humid. Many of the attractions (namely the King’s Palace and the two main temples, Wat Pho and Wat Arun) can get very crowded depending on the time of day, so not relying on public transportation or cabs made the experience way more enjoyable.
My mom found a great guide, Pauline, and driver, Mr. Pat, who took us around for both of our tour days. One was the first time we were in Bangkok (before flying to Phuket for a couple of days), and that’s when we went over an hour outside the city to a fisherman’s village, floating market, and more. Once we were back from Phuket, we did a second day in Bangkok, seeing the temples and King’s Palace.
In addition to it being really helpful not to have to worry about navigation and crowds, it was incredible to have an air conditioned car (and ice cold water + these amazing wet disposable washcloths they make there) to recover between stops. These tours are designed to pack a lot into one day, and having a car there just for us (versus a huge tourist bus) made a world of difference. We asked our guide how people would typically visit the areas outside the city (that we did on our first day), and she said other than public transportation–which, in her words, were “how the Lonely Planet people do it,”–it would be next to impossible.
- Utilize the SkyTrain! Ticket agents at the counter are really helpful so don’t feel like you have to use a kiosk.
- Make sure the cab driver starts the meter. Like I said before…cab drivers frequently try and get tourists to agree on a set price rather than start the meter. If they won’t start it, tell them you want to get out. They may grumble, but it’s important to do this unless you want to get ripped off.
- Don’t be afraid to bargain. This is especially true at markets…you can generally get something for at least half the listed price. If you aren’t sure whether you’re headed to a place where it’s appropriate to bargain, don’t be afraid to ask your hotel’s front desk or concierge.
- Tipping. It’s not huge there, but it feels weird not to leave a tip! There’s a 7% service charge applied to all restaurant bills, so we generally left anywhere from a small amount to a few dollars depending on the service and total.